According to research conducted in the UK, folic acid supplements can minimise chances of premature birth by a whopping 70 percent, if taken for a whole year prior to pregnancy.
While these supplements are already known to reduce the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida, it was only recently discovered that they are beneficial in other ways. The Guardian reported that a study was conducted on nearly 40,000 women and the results further support the idea of fortifying flour and bread with folic acid. In the US, all cereal-based products must compulsorily contain 140 micrograms of folic acid per 100 grams.
For every three babies born within 28 weeks of pregnancy in the UK, one dies and others are at risk of lifelong disabilities.
The study compared groups of women who had taken folic acid for different amounts of time and the supplement was found to cut the risk of premature delivery between 20 to 28 weeks of pregnancy and by 50 percent between 28 to 32 weeks.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommends that flour should be boosted with 240 micrograms of folic acid per 100 grams to prevent brain and spinal cord defects -- according to them, only a third of women take folic acid pre-pregnancy. Tim Draycott, a UK-based consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, said: that fortifying foods is a better option than getting women to take folic acid as a supplement.
Until the results of this study are drawn to a definite conclusion, however, they will be treated cautiously.